King Cotton is dead, long live King Gas

I have a post up at The National Interest, arguing that embargoes imposed by commodity export countries in pursuit of geopolitical objectives rarely, if ever, work. Opening paras:

At the beginning of the Civil War, the leaders of the South were, as is normal at the outset of war, confident that their superior military prowess would yield a rapid victory. But the Confederates had another reason for confidence: their possession of a near-monopoly in the market for the most important commodity of the day: cotton.

Like oil in the twentieth century, cotton was vital to the industrial economies of the nineteenth, and particularly that of Britain, the preeminent naval and military power of the day. And the Southern United States was the world’s dominant producer of cotton, accounting for 77 percent of British imports in the 1850s.

Rhetoric about ‘King Cotton’ matched the most hyperbolic claims about ‘energy superpowers’ to be heard today. In 1858, South Carolina senator James Hammond said ‘old England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her…. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king.’

The most immediate application, obviously, is to Russia and gas. Feel free to discuss the broader issues raised by the Ukraine crisis.

32 thoughts on “King Cotton is dead, long live King Gas

  1. The real issue for Russia is that as Global Warming progresses Russia’s territory will come under imense pressure from southern populations particularly the middle east and China. There is an imense area of sparsely populated resource rich land above China who has the population available to fill it. Russia with this annexation in this 21st century has set a precedent for border adjustment as Climate Change renders other lands unlivable.

    I doubt that the rest of the world is going to go to Russia’s aid if China moves to takeshare Siberia.

  2. Germany has been decreasing both its gas and coal consumption while increasing its electricity exports. Germany exported a recored quantity of electricity in 2013. The country has demonstrated an ability to rapidly improve its energy independance and it is clear that if Germans decided to they could rapidly reduce their gas imports. Here is a link to an article on their fossil fuel use decline and record electricity exports:

  3. And it looks like Germany may be closing down a 1.345 gigawatt nuclear plant early when its current load of fuel runs out on account of how average wholesale electricity prices have fallen below the approximately 4 Euro cents a kilowatt-hour the plant apparently requires to make worthwhile to operate:

    Low wholesale electricity prices and the early closure of large scale generating capacity is of course not the sort of thing one would expect to see in a nation if it was on the brink of collasping from a lack of affordable energy.

  4. “in ukraine, new gov’t must reassure jewish community”: abraham h foxman in the new york times. he mentions svododa by name, as an organisation of concern, and deputy p.m. olexander sych, known for speeches promoting stepan bandera as an exemplary figure for ukrainian nationalists.

    foxman says, among other things, that right sector national head dmitry yarosh had a meeting in kiev with israel’s ambassador to ukraine, reuven din al. yarosh said his organisation rejects anti-semitism and xenophobia,and will not tolerate it, and their goals are a democratic ukraine, transparent gov’t, an end to corruption & equal opportunity for all ethnic groups. this dmitry yarosh was the guy who posted a message on his organisation’s website inviting chechen terrorist doku umarov to act against Russia; he said, i paraphrase, ukrainian nationalists fought with you against russia, so you should consider some action now against russia in support of ukraine. bad luck for doku umarov, who is reported to have been killed by chechen special forces last week.

    then there is the bad luck case of aleksandr muzychko, the head of the western ukraine branch of right sector. muzychko is famous recently for expressing himself in public declaring: “i’ll be fighting russians & jews till i die”. you may recall seeing muzychko on video, early on after the coup, barging into a provincial local gov’t assembly with his goons, brandishing his kalashnikov & 17 inch bowie knife, daring anyone to take them off him, all the while proclaiming a new broom in the country.

    so, well, right sector is now entering politics, for the first time, putting aside its scorn of svoboda’s political compromises & cleaning up its image to enter the electoral fray. dmitry yarosh has announced he is running for president in the election. and you may hear, in the upcoming news (or you may not), that last night aleksandr muzychko was killed outside a restaurant in a country town in western ukraine. police, executing warrants on charges of hooliganism & obstructing law enforcement agencies, are saying it was a shoot out and muzychko jumped through a window shooting from the hip, shooting after he was hit.

    however, ukrainian parliamentarian, aleksandr doniy, says on his website that muzychko’s car “was cut off by two other cars. He was dragged out and placed in one of those cars. Then he was thrown on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back and [he received] two shots in his heart”. wow! muzychko earlier on his website wrote that the ukrainian interior ministry had decided to “eliminate” him or capture him & hand him over to russian and blame it on russian intelligence. paranoid? -a.v.

  5. Yes, Oleksandr Muzychko is dead according to all reports. The Ukrainian neo-nazis have bitten off more than they can chew. They are brainless thugs and mere amateurs compared to Putin’s Chekist reach, influence and “opers” (operatives or agents). I expect important Ukrainian neo-nazis to start dying like flies soon. There will always be “plausible deniability” of Kremlin involvement.

    I expect Arsenii Yatseniuk will be seeking politcal asylum within twelve months as his power and legitimacy disintegrates.

  6. yup dead as a door nail. and pressure on the gov’t. it looks to me like an assasination. i have read a third version of the events, to wit: three volkswagan vans (two black, 1 white, pulled up to the restaurant, all the guests were forced outside, muzychko & his body guards were beaten and muzychko was taken out back and shot twice in the heart & the body was left where it fell. some of the guests have been taken hostage, three right sector, 2 others & the head of the local employment agency. police have not commented on this version, which appears in a couple of ukrainian websites and a newspaper, but this does not sound to me like a police operation: the hostages, the body left at the scene, the unmarked vans, the shooters without uniforms.

    i don’t know if the fascists are stupid but they are adapting themselves to the changed environment. now that the “gov’t of occupation” is overthrown and competition, in the form of the communist party & the party of regions, has been eliminated, there is more opportunity for nationalists in electoral politics. but if anyone in ukraine wants to be effective in affecting electoral politics & having an influence in parliament they have to be acceptable to the europeans. being acceptable to the europeans means no more overt official racism and, we’ll see in the fullness of time, no more extolling stepan bandera as an exemplary ukrainian nationalist. coming to grips with bandera may be more difficult than offing recalcitrant anti-semites in their midst.

    svoboda has always been involved in electoral politics, but now they too are tempering their racism to get eu approval. the same with right sector, which has declared its intention of entering electoral politics. and, to be viable in electoral politics, they have to reassure the europeans and to reassure the europeans they have to curb their overt anti-semitism. this was the point of the meeting with the israeli ambassador, and the statement made by dmitry yarosh at the israeli embassy, that right sector does not now tolerate anti-semitism. this is, i think, why muzychko was liquidated, because, together with his high profile, his stubborn unreconstructed racism & anti-semitism had became a liability to the right sector leadership as it seeks to reposition itself in ukrainian electoral politics.

    so i don’t think its stupidity, i think its ruthless adaptation. the question in my mind now is how does the right sector membership react to muzychko’s assassination, especially in the western heartland, where he was their elected leader. it reminds me most of the purging of rohm’s brown shirt faction in the nazi party, in the sense that an internal party faction head has been ruthlessly eliminated sending a signal to the membership, not in the sense that the nazi’s were working to improve their image with electors. -a.v.

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